Hi friends, hope we’re all keeping well.
As of now, I’m still currently reading the book Super Thinking, which is an absolutely great but gargantuan sized book; of which I’m only roughly 30% through.
Thus, I came up with the idea of doing a book review for a book that I had already previously read before: The Little Book of Stoicism by Jonas Salzgeber.
This was a fairly short and sweet read, and yet remained very informative and interesting. I had occasionally heard about the Stoicism philosophy before, but never had a deeper look into it until reading this book (as recommended by some Instagram book pages).
And my goodness, the amount of great insights this book gave me regarding Stoics were superb. Everything from the history to the beliefs, to the practices to the core principles were all very well explained. For someone like me who has varying degrees of trouble understanding difficult concepts, this book was extremely easy to both comprehend and enjoy.
For those who are relatively unfamiliar with Stoicism, I’ll try do my best to explain. Essentially, Stoicism teaches us that we are ultimately the ones in control of our emotions. It teaches us to remain calm and collected in the face of adversity and trouble, by recognising that external events are simply just that; external events. They have absolutely no overbearing nor control over how we react, and thus it is ultimately our responsibility for overcoming destructive emotions.
“External events basically carry no meaning at all, it’s how we perceive them, it’s our judgments that give them meaning and make them seem good or bad.”
“A brave man isn’t someone who doesn’t experience any trace of fear whatsoever but someone who acts courageously despite feeling anxiety.”
“(1) there is nothing good or bad unless we choose to make it so, and (2) we shouldn’t try to lead events but follow them. Resistance is futile, take things as they come, and make the best of what’s in your power.”
The core meaning behind these quotes is to simply regard external events as external events, things which we have no control over. Thus, since we have no control over these events from occurring, it is best to accept them with no judgement or negative emotions; making us much happier in the process.
There are many techniques and teachings that this book gives us to help execute this philosophy, known as Stoic practises.
One such practise is called ‘Take the Bird’s Eye View’. By imaging yourself as a bird flying in the sky, you are able to see every part of humanity below you, all mixed together as one beautiful scene. This helps us imagine ourselves as part of humanity as a whole, and in my opinion helps you become more calm and forgiving towards others.
“How beautifully Plato put it. Whenever you want to talk about people, it’s best to take a bird’s-eye view and see everything all at once—of gatherings, armies, farms, weddings and divorces, births and deaths, noisy courtrooms or silent places, every foreign people, holidays, memorials, markets—all blended together and arranged in a pairing of opposites.” – Marcus Aurelius.
Another really useful practice that I like is the Other-ize technique. This is how the great Epictetus puts it:
“We can familiarize ourselves with the will of nature by calling to mind our common experiences. When a friend breaks a glass, we are quick to say, ‘Oh, bad luck.’ It’s only reasonable, then, that when a glass of your own breaks, you accept it in the same patient spirit . . . We would do better to remember how we react when a similar loss afflicts others.”
Essentially, when something bad or unfortunate happens to us, like when we accidentally break something, we should imagine how we would react to it if the same situation happened to a friend. We wouldn’t of course be saying things like “Oh wow, you’re such an idiot. I can’t believe you’re that stupid to do that” (or rather, I hope you aren’t saying these things).
Instead, we’d clearly see that things happen outside of our control, and reassure the friend, saying “Ah no worries, there’s nothing we can do now. Accidents happen, don’t be too hard on yourself!”. Thus, we become more forgiving to ourselves by imagining others experiencing the same problem!
Overall, the book is a fantastic insight into Stoicism in my opinion, and I would genuinely recommend it to everyone to learn about. There are many Stoic beliefs and practices which we can incorporate into our own life and reap their benefits!